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UMaine Astronomy Professor, Grad Student to Travel to Chile

A University of Maine astronomy professor and graduate student will travel to Chile in July to spend one night of observation at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, east of the city La Serena.

The observatory is home to the newly developed Dark Energy Camera or DECam; the only one of it’s kind. The DECam is part of a 4-meter diameter Victor M. Blanco Telescope, which a few years ago was the largest in South America. The DECam is a set of 62 cameras totaling 570 megapixels.

David Batuski, a physics professor, and Andrej Favia, his graduate student, were allotted one night of observation with the telescope on July 2. The highly competitive proposal application process accepts about one in eight proposals.

Batuski and Favia will spend about four hours looking at two superclusters of galaxies in the search for dark matter, what Batuski calls “one of the greatest mysteries of cosmology right now.”

Dark matter makes up 27 percent of the universe’s content. All observed ordinary matter adds up to 5 percent, while dark energy accounts for 68 percent, according to NASA.gov.

Dark matter doesn’t generate or interact with light, making it only observable through deduction of other observations of its gravitational effects.

According to Batuski, the effects of dark matter have been observed on the small scale — seen as galaxies and clusters of galaxies with too much mass. It has also been observed on its largest scale — the entire universe.

Batuski and Favia’s research will attempt to observe dark matter on a medium scale — roughly 40 million light years — the first of its kind to their knowledge.

With only one night of observation Batuski and Favia are excited, but most of all are hoping for clear weather.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Two UMaine Students Win George J. Mitchell Peace Scholarship to Study in Ireland

Two University of Maine sophomores have been named winners of the George J. Mitchell Peace Scholarship for the 2014–15 academic year and will study abroad in Ireland as part of the student exchange program.

George J. Mitchell Scholars Morgan Gustin and Hilary Warner-Evans will each spend a semester at the University College Cork in Ireland. The scholarship honors the 1998 Northern Ireland peace accord brokered by Sen. Mitchell between Ireland and the United Kingdom and is open to full-time undergraduate students in the University of Maine system.

The scholarship allows one student to study for a year in Ireland or two students to study for a semester each with all expenses paid, including airfare. This year — for the second time — both winners are from the Orono campus.

Gustin, an animal sciences major from Merrill, Maine, will study in Ireland during the fall 2014 semester. Warner-Evans, an anthropology major from West Bath, Maine, will make the trip in the spring of 2015. Both students are enrolled in the Honors College.

While in Ireland, Gustin plans to pursue animal science courses from a new perspective, specifically through integrating Ireland’s farming, livestock and agricultural techniques into her learning.

“Studying in Ireland will allow me to broaden my understanding of life in a different culture, expand my horizons within animal sciences, and gain experience that will help me decide whether my goal of living abroad long term is a desirable reality,” Gustin says, adding that she is looking forward to pushing herself out of her comfort zone personally and academically.

In the long term, Gustin aspires to explore a variety of areas within animal science, particularly field research on large animals and management practices within the context of a ranch.

She has worked as a student farm intern at the University of Maine Witter Farm Equine Cooperative and as a tour guide and carriage driver with Carriages of Acadia in Bar Harbor. At Carriages of Acadia she leads narrated historic tours of Acadia National Park and the carriage road system while driving and handling draft horse teams in a variety of situations.

Gustin also is a College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) Level 1 certified tutor for the UMaine Tutor Program and a member of the student leadership group for Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU). She has taken mission trips to Chile and Haiti as a member of CRU, volunteering her time to serve others and raise funds for the expeditions.

“I hope to return with an even deeper insight on how to step into the unknown and rise up to meet the challenges it presents,” Gustin says of her next adventure.

Warner-Evans, who is pursuing a degree in anthropology and aspires to become a folklorist, will study Irish folklore while abroad.

“Folklore is a discipline uniquely suited to celebrating both cultural variation and universality,” she says. “An understanding of it provides insight into both the specific identities of groups and the dynamics between them.”

Since 2012, Warner-Evans has volunteered at the Maine Folklife Center, where she has contributed to the center’s community outreach efforts by conducting research for its Maine Song and Story Sampler webpage. She also volunteers as a UMaine Conversation and Cultural Partner and is a member of Maine Peace Action Committee, the UMaine German Club and the Honors College Student Advisory Board.

“The Mitchell Scholarship will give me an unprecedented opportunity to broaden my understanding of the field of folklore, as it will expose me to a second interpretation of the discipline,” says Warner-Evans, who is currently working on a research project about reactions to the discovery of the North Pond Hermit and how those reactions relate to Maine identity.

Warner-Evans says she is driven by her dream of living in a world where tradition and tolerance are valued equally, and where groups with different views can take pride in their own identities while acknowledging that does not mean they are inherently superior to others.

“The ability to study folklore at University College Cork is an invaluable tool for me to further the implantation of my vision of a more tolerant and empathetic world,” she says.

More about the George J. Mitchell Peace Scholarship is online.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Nursing Students Lead Community Health Projects

Residents of Hancock, Penobscot and Waldo county towns have benefited from three community health projects completed by University of Maine nursing seniors. The students conducted analyses to determine the health needs of each community and devised plans to address them.

Elizabeth Bicknell, associate professor of nursing, was the primary mentor for all three of the groups.

***

One group of six seniors collaborated with the Castine Fire Department, Castine Post Office and Vial of Life to distribute forms detailing medical history, medication and advance directives for residents to make available to first responders. Residents mark their front door with a red decal, which informs first responders that important medical information is affixed to the resident’s refrigerator using a matching decal.

Vial of Life is a nonprofit group that distributes the distinctive decals and medical forms to communities across the United States.

The group of six students started their project by performing a complete health history of Castine. They found there was a lack of emergency response services as a result of budget cuts, and decided to distribute the Vials of Life to residents at the Castine Post Office.

The students were Jacob McCrea and Margaret Dionne of Brewer; Renee Butler of Hampden; Melinda Grover of Newburgh; Thomas Gutow of Castine and Brian Coer of Madison, Connecticut.

***

Another group of seniors sought to educate kindergarten and first-grade students at Searsport Elementary School about proper hygiene. The nursing students used hands-on activities to show the importance of proper hand washing, as well as teaching facts about germs and a song to remind the children how long they should continue washing.

Targeting young children for hygiene education may help foster better hygiene practices throughout childhood and ideally into adulthood, the students said. It also should help reduce the spread of illness within the school, they added.

The students were Brittany Ames of Cumberland, Hilary Clark of Poland, Candace Work of Belfast, Emily Miliano of Cornish, Magalloway Field of Stratton, Joshua Hughes of Glenburn, and Brieana Evans of Bangor.

***

The third group partnered with the Brewer Community School and visited two seventh-grade health classes to educate students about healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices. Each nursing student devised an interactive activity based on a point of the “5-2-1-0 Let’s Go!” initiative, a childhood obesity prevention program.

The 5-2-1-0 initiative stands for five or more fruits and vegetables per day, two hours or less of recreational screen time, one or more hours of physical activity and zero sugary drinks.

The nursing students targeted obesity rates in Penobscot County because it has the highest rate in the state, they said. At the Brewer Community School, 47 percent of students are overweight or obese, according to body mass index (BMI) calculations.

The students administered a 10-question survey before and after the activities. They determined there was a 14 percent increase in scores after the children participated, suggesting a positive outcome.

The group consisted of four students: Janette Merritt of Deer Isle, Sean Sibley of Lincoln, Laura St. Pierre of Lewiston, and Olivia Tetu of Brunswick.

UMaine Names 2014 Valedictorian and Salutatorian

University of Maine President Paul Ferguson has announced the 2014 valedictorian, Sierra Ventura of Belfast, Maine, and salutatorian Jennifer Chalmers of Foxborough, Mass.

Both will receive their degrees at UMaine’s 212th Commencement ceremonies in Harold Alfond Sports Arena May 10.

“Sierra and Jenn personify the best of the University of Maine undergraduate experience in their academic excellence, community engagement, and dedication to research and scholarship,” says President Ferguson. “We are proud of their achievements and their leadership in the UMaine community.”

Ventura will receive a bachelor’s degree in music education. Throughout her undergraduate career, she has been active in UMaine’s chapter of the National Association of Music Education, including two years as treasurer, and she is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Her leadership roles on campus include serving as assistant conductor of the University of Maine Singers and of Euphony, the Orono-based chamber choir, both in 2013–14. The previous year, Ventura was the assistant accompanist of Collegiate Chorale.

Ventura also was a member of other musical ensembles in the UMaine School of Performing Arts, including Opera Workshop, Concert Band and Athena Consort, and she worked on the technical and events crews. Since 2009, she has had her own business, S.J. Ventura Music Instruction, teaching 35 students in piano, voice, flute, clarinet and saxophone. Ventura plans to pursue a graduate degree in music education at the University of Maine.

“UMaine has helped me shape my pursuits in the music education field,” Ventura says. “UMaine has also provided me the opportunity to connect with many veteran teachers and other professionals in my field throughout my undergraduate career, as well as give me tools to become a better private music teacher for my students. During my undergraduate career, I was also blessed to have met my fiancé during my time in University Singers.”

Chalmers will receive two bachelor’s degrees in English and in history. She has majored in English and history, with minors in education and Spanish, and received highest honors for her honors thesis, a historical and literary research project, entitled “Teaching Literature in America: Demonstrating Relevance in the Early Cold War (1945–1963).”

Chalmers is a member of multiple honor societies, including All Maine Women, Sophomore Eagles and Phi Beta Kappa. The UMaine Presidential Scholar Award recipient received Roger B. Hill Scholarships in both history and English, and the Ellis Prize in English. She also received a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

While at UMaine, Chalmers had two internships that advanced her professional writing skills. She was a human resources intern with the Massachusetts State Police in Framingham, Mass., and an English editorial intern with Pearson Higher Education in Boston, Mass. She was a journalist for the Maine Journal and a tutor for UMaine’s Writing Center. In addition, Chalmers was a student supervisor for Black Bear Dining concessions and a clarinetist in the UMaine Symphonic and Pep bands. Her community service activities included volunteering, serving as a note taker for UMaine Disability Support Services, and being involved in Autism at UMaine and the History Club.

“Since the moment I first visited UMaine, I have always felt at home,” Chalmers says. “I’m particularly appreciative of the way my professors have been so willing to help me achieve my goals and have always been on the lookout for opportunities that might be beneficial for me. I also really appreciate the wealth of opportunities that UMaine has provided outside the classroom. I have had so many opportunities to join organizations that I genuinely care about, gain leadership experience and make lasting friendships. My coursework, jobs and activities at UMaine have provided me with the experience that I have needed to get scholarships, internships and jobs, both inside and outside UMaine. The people, the organizations, and the generally encouraging atmosphere at UMaine have been invaluable to my personal, professional and intellectual growth during college, and I know that taking advantage of the opportunities that UMaine has to offer has allowed and prepared me to achieve my goals.”

Chalmers has accepted a position with Teach for America. For the next two years, she will teach secondary special education English in southern New Jersey and then will pursue graduate school.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

Image Description: Ventura

Image Description: Chalmers

2014 Maine Studies Research and Creativity Award Winners Announced

The Maine Studies Program at the University of Maine has announced the winners of the 10th annual Maine Studies Research and Creativity Awards.

Each year the award is given to an undergraduate and graduate student — or group of students — to highlight exemplary student research related to the study of Maine. All UMaine research papers or projects related to Maine and created within the last year are eligible for the award.

This year’s undergraduate winner is a group of students: Benjamin Algeo, Shannon Brenner, Alexandria Jesiolowski, Joshua Morse, Victoria Schuyler and Braden Sinclair. Their interdisciplinary research project, “Building a Better Orono Together: Cultivating Organic Community Connection with University and Orono Stakeholders,” examined the relations between UMaine and Orono and exposed the students to the valuable practice of engaged research under the guidance of Robert Glover, an assistant professor of political science.

Hollie Smith is this year’s graduate winner. Her research paper, “Science and Policy in Maine: Opportunities for Engagement with the Maine State Legislature,” examines ways graduate students at UMaine might contribute more effectively to Maine’s policymaking process. Laura Lindenfeld, an associate professor of mass communication and media studies and public policy, supervised the project.

For the past 10 years, the University of Maine Foundation has provided financial support for the awards.

Applications Being Accepted for 2014 Summer FLAS Awards

The Canadian-American Center at the University of Maine announced it is accepting applications for the 2014 Summer Foreign Language and Areas Studies (FLAS) Award.

The award is federally funded and is offered to students during the academic year and summer to support the bilingual research (English and French) of master’s and doctoral candidates whose studies focus on Canada.

Summer FLAS Awards are specifically aimed at developing language skills. The awards are open on a competitive basis to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who seek to improve their proficiency in French as a tool for graduate research.

Candidates must be willing to commit to six weeks of intensive French study. Programs covered by the award are offered in the U.S. for students with novice level of proficiency, and in Canada for students with higher levels of proficiency. The federal grant covers up to $4,000 in tuition and offers a living allowance stipend.

The Canadian-American Center is designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Resource Center on Canada and provides the award as part of its mission.

More information, including how to apply, is available online.

Black Bear Food Guild Offering CSA Shares

The Black Bear Food Guild, a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program that is organized and managed by students in the University of Maine’s Sustainable Agriculture program, is offering CSA shares for the season.

In an effort to increase accessibility to fresh, seasonal produce for all members of the community, the Black Bear Food Guild is offering full, half and quarter shares. The 2014 season marks the first time the guild will be offering quarter shares, which are recommended for one person and an ideal choice for students. Quarter shares cost $175. Full shares are $475 and will feed four people, and half shares are $300 and will feed two people.

Shareholders can pick up produce each week at the university’s Rogers Farm. The guild’s season runs from mid-June through early October.

A limited number of shares are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Those interested in purchasing a share for the 2014 season should email the Black Bear Food Guild at blackbearcsa@gmail.com.

Since 1994, students have farmed two acres of MOFGA-certified organic vegetables and cut flowers on Rogers Farm. The farmers for the 2014 Black Bear Food Guild are Laura Goldshein, Lindy Morgan and Abby Buckland.

EMMC Announces Inaugural Chair of UMaine External Advisory Board

Ian Dickey, MD, FRCSC, lead physician of Eastern Maine Medical Center’s orthopedic surgical specialists, has been invited to serve as the first chair of the University of Maine Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering’s new external advisory board, EMMC announced.

UMaine established the school in 2006 as a collaborative effort between the university, The Jackson Laboratory, Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Maine Medical Center Research Institute, University of Southern Maine and University of New England. About 40 Ph.D. students and 100 faculty members are currently involved with the school, researching molecular and cellular biology, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, toxicology and functional genomics.

“To move to the next stage, the program needs the advice of a high-powered, knowledgeable external advisory board,” said David Neivandt, director of the UMaine Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering. “This board, with Dr. Dickey’s leadership, will provide external counsel and perspective regarding scientific direction and curricula, assist in identifying and securing external funding, aid in networking for students and faculty, and serve as an advocacy role both internal and external to the university.”

The full EMMC news release is online.

UMaine to Host IFTSA Regional Meeting, April 11-12

About 75 students from the University of Maine, University of Massachusetts, Penn State, Rutgers and Cornell are expected to gather at the UMaine campus April 11–12 for the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association’s (IFTSA) North Atlantic Area Meeting.

The event brings together students from food science departments in the North Atlantic area, and provides them with updates and information from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and its student association.

The meeting also serves as a food science trivia contest among the five universities. The winning institution of the North Atlantic Area College Bowl Competition will advance to the finals at the IFT Annual Meeting in New Orleans, La. in June.

Mary Ellen Camire, president-elect of IFT and professor of food science and human nutrition at UMaine, will speak at the regional meeting’s welcome dinner on April 11.

For more information or to request a disability accommodation, contact UMaine student Kaitlyn Feeney on FirstClass.

UMaine Bioengineering Students Collaborate With The Jackson Laboratory, IDEXX Laboratories on Capstone Projects

Three University of Maine student research teams in bioengineering are collaborating with The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor and IDEXX Laboratories Inc., in Westbrook on senior capstone projects.

Working under the supervision of Professor David Neivandt, director of UMaine’s Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering, and coordinator of the undergraduate bioengineering program, the bioengineering seniors are involved in semester-long capstone projects in which they develop device concepts and methods to improve biological systems that benefit society.

“In the early stages of our classes, we have a lot of canned problems,” says Jeff Servetas, Hancock, Maine, of his bioengineering coursework. Now as seniors, the students are developing solutions to open-ended questions that have not been addressed before.

Two teams are working with IDEXX — one team will work to develop a device veterinarians could use to test for ear mites in dogs, while the other team’s focus is to design a method to provide precise, accurate and rapid quantification of spot density in the IDEXX SNAP® test for screening for diseases.

“I really feel like I’m making a difference,” says Servetas of the project. “If the work I do relieves pet owner of the burden, we’re making a difference.”

Tony DiMarco, vice president for research and development at IDEXX, says working with UMaine students in co-ops and on capstone projects is enjoyable. “The students are fantastic — they jump headlong into projects and thrive on working through complex design problems, using a systematic approach that reveals their intense training. It allows us to get a head start on new projects, or explore some new areas that we might not otherwise work on,” he says.

A third bioengineering team was asked by Jackson Laboratory to develop a device to keep mice warm during embryo transplant surgery, thereby improving the success rates.

The next project in the course will send the students to Dirigo Pines in Orono, where they will be working with the residents and staff to identify problems that can be addressed with engineering solutions.

Majoring in bioengineering at UMaine means majoring in problem-solving, says Coady Richardson of Madison, Maine. “I’ve always liked puzzles and solving problems. (Bioengineering) is the most challenging program on campus,” says Richardson, adding that working with Jackson Lab mentors has taught him how to effectively communicate about research.

Having a well-rounded “toolbox” of problem-solving and communication skills with which to address bioengineering challenges is a true boon, according to the students.

“We learn to be professionals,” says Haylea Ledoux of Bedford, N.H. While communicating in different “engineering languages” is important, being able to learn in different styles has made the most difference, she says.

“It’s a big test for us to prove to ourselves that we have the knowledge and are capable of doing this,” says Ledoux.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745


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UMaine News
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
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